Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ evidence

January 15, 2014 • 8:06 am

As we all know, for most believers religion, to be fully embraced as a way of life, must be based—at least in principle and in part—on evidence. But the absence of that evidence has given rise to the discipline of theology, which is based on the insupportable premise of rationality without reason. The Jesus and Mo author conveys, in four panels, arguments I’ve been making for years. Religion is a pseudoscience: it makes existence claims—statements about reality—but, when those are challenged, reverts to exactly the same tactics as do advocates of Bigfoot, alien abduction, and homeopathy. The “evidence” reverts to revelation and scripture, and religionists make sure that it’s not capable of being falsified.

But I digress: here’s a shorter take, in which Jesus has found (to use the parlance of Alvin “I haz a sensus divinitatis” Plantinga) a “defeater” for arguments against the Resurrection:



72 thoughts on “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ evidence

  1. As we all know, for most believers religion, to be fully embraced as a way of life, must be based—at least in principle and in part—on evidence.

    I’m not sure I know that at all.

    1. I agree. None of the churchgoing Christians I know are interested in the evidence for [or against] the truth of their beliefs.

      1. They’re interested in evidence if it supports their beliefs. If it doesn’t, then evidence isn’t important, it’s faith that counts.

        1. When it comes to thinking scientifically, the average church-goer is no different than the average person who doesn’t attend church. You should compare religious people who are scientists with non-religious scientists. I suspect that such a comparison would reveal that there isn’t much difference when it comes to proofs, evidence, and recognition of the lack thereof. Consider, for example, the molecular geneticists who write for BioLogos.

          1. When it comes to thinking scientifically about religious claims, I think the average pious church-goer is distinctly different than the average person who doesn’t attend church because they aren’t religious.

            We are accusing the religious of special pleading, not across-the-board irrationality in every aspect of their personal lives. Though of course, false assumptions and sloppy reasoning to support them have a habit of bleeding out.

            1. Religious claims, as with all truth claims, must be tested. No one is expected to believe claims without support. What we consider “credible” depends on our preconceptions and prejudices.

              1. That’s not entirely true.

                The level of trust — faith — that religion demands is unprecedented in any other area of life. If a used car salesman asked you to trust him about how sweet a ride that car is the same way that the preacher man asks you to trust him that Jesus is waiting for you in Heaven, you’d run screaming for the exit with your hand on your wallet pocket.

                I mean, really? The best evidence for any of the major Western religions is a fourth-rate ancient faery tale anthology? One that opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard; that features a talking plant (on fire!) that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero; and that ends with an utterly bizarre zombie snuff pr0n fantasy in which a thrall fondles the king of the undead’s intestines through a gaping chest wound?

                Not everybody has the same standards for credibility, granted, but that anybody would even give the slightest hint of credibility to religious claims boggles the mind.



              2. Religious claims, as with all truth claims, must be tested. No one is expected to believe claims without support.

                I’m not sure what you mean. How does one test a specifically religious claim — such as “God exists?” Could you please provide an example?

                What we consider “credible” depends on our preconceptions and prejudices.

                And if we wish to be honest, we will attempt to be as objective (and as inter-subjective) as possible.

          2. Actually, quite the opposite is notoriously true.

            Ken Miller, a very well respected biologist and textbook author (and deservedly so), has publicly stated that one of the most important bits of evidence supporting his Catholic faith was the fact that he stumbled upon a tripartite frozen waterfall.

            Dr. Miller knows that wouldn’t even constitute a bad joke were he to present that sort of evidence in a peer-reviewed biology journal, yet it’s an essential element sustaining his religious faith.

            Such double standards are universally embodied in the religious importance of faith as a virtue. In the sciences, faith is the one unpardonable sin. (Note: fraud is a form of faith; the fraudster says, “Have faith in my figures; I assure you they’re true!”)



      2. Well, that’s because they think there IS evidence (often it is limited to scripture). Believe me, if they absolutely knew that Christianity was all made up, they wouldn’t be Christians!

        1. Jerry’s right, folks. It doesn’t even occur to the common Christian to think that the Bible is anything other than an history book.

          Oh, sure, maybe it’s not perfect and maybe not meant to be taken literally, but the broad outline is certainly true, and especially the important bits (as indicated by the denomination’s Credo) are unquestionably true.

          And that’s true in a “Caesar crossed the Rubicon” sense, not in “true metaphor expressing the something-mumble of the human experience.”

          It’s not at all uncommon for Christians to claim that Jesus is the best-evidenced figure in all of human history — and for them to be utterly serious and sincere in this claim.



          1. And they are aided and abetted by seeming-ly innocuous presentations at school. In both my grade 7 and 9 “Moral and Religious Education” classes years ago, swathes of the bible were presented as if they were history, like a large portion of the old testament patriarchs – in a secondary source, to boot; then in the later year, Luke/Acts. The courses were clear that the supernaturalistic stuff might be a matter of faith for some, but no critical analysis of the rest was even *mentioned* as possible. I wonder whether not teaching this sort of thing would work better than having the mistakes reinforced.

          2. Was there a historical Jesus?
            Best selling book ever.
            Main character.
            Case closed.
            Standard lay Christian response.

            1. Even though I am unable to find any Christians who actually follows the teachings in the New Testament (humility, forbidden vengeance, keeping politics and religion separate, violent military uprising not advocated, but in fact repeatedly condemned (blessed are the peacemakers), love and respect for everyone, no matter their ethnicity, brutal execution of women adulterers, but not male (and lots of others), I have a hard time believing that Jesus the man never existed. Although no actual historical evidence is now available (which is not odd, considering that during his lifetime, no one word have considered him to be historically important), his being invented whole cloth would make the Piltdown Man, the Hitler Diaries, that South Pacific Island tribe that had never had contact with the rest of our world(I don’t remember all the details right now) and many others all rolled into one would not even come close to this level of fraud. I just can’t see the current number of followers and the history of the Church’s political domination being based on a total hoax.

              1. My remarks aren’t intended to address, much less resolve, arguments about whether the Jesus character in the Bible actually existed, Lisa.

              2. Correction: now that I see my entire post Lisa responded to, and what my post responded to, I have to say that I actually was commenting on the existence of the Biblical Jesus. Sorry, Lisa, I went off less than half-cocked replying to you. I should have only written this: whenever I say things about the Jesus character, I don’t say “hoax.”

                I think the character is complete fiction. However, like many other fictional characters, it is an amalgam of actual human beings who existed then. The character also has traits attributed to contemporary and historical supernatural myth figures, and perhaps — even likely — antecedent Hebrew cultural icons also.

                As I said, I typically refrain from saying “hoax.” Hoax Christianity is, though, like all religions. There is nothing all that unusual about political/cultural movements based on myth and/or outright cynical lies achieving success, either extremely short term or even for centuries.

                Unlike the Jesus tale, Piltdown Man, the Hitler Diaries, and the New Guinea tribesman reaction to their encounter with WWII soldiers/technology are all well-documented.

              3. Actually, Jesus is every bit as fictional as every other demigod from the time and region, and in exactly the same way.

                Read Justin Martyr’s First Apology; he sets forth the case most clearly. In his attempt to sell Christianity to the Pagans — and remember that he’s the first one on record as doing so, in the first half of the second century — he details dozens of “sons of Jupiter” and the like who’re indistinguishable from Jesus. He accounts for this by blaming evil demons with the power of foresight who planted the earlier stories in order to lead honest men astray. The fact remains, however, that — as Martyr so correctly observes — not a single bit of Jesus’s biography is original; all is directly lifted from the popular stories of the popular gods of the day.

                This is, in fact, how new gods and new religions of the time were invented. Orpheus, for example, like Jesus, was cast in the mold of Osiris and Dionysus. Both are ostensibly natives of their region: Orpheus in Thrace and Jesus in Judea. Both cultures are depicted as far more corrupt than they really were, and both heroes represent the Hellenistic ideal. Both are unjustly tried and condemned; both go to Hell; both conquer death; and both offer salvation in the idyllic world to come. That is the very essence of the stories of Osiris and Dionysus, as well — and of all Solar death / rebirth / salvation gods.

                Further, while “hoax” likely isn’t the right word, “fraud,” certainly is. In particular, read Lucian of Samosata’s delightful satire on the Passing of Peregrinus. Amongst his many sins, Peregrinus conned the Christians into accepting them as one of his own, and convinced them to accept many Pagan “mysteries” as Christian “inventions.”

                Whoever Peregrinus actually was, you can actually see an example of this happening in the New testament. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, introduces the Eucharist into Christianity in a passage that superficially amounts to the most biographical detail of Jesus’s life he ever offers. Yet we know from Martyr (again, in the First Apology) that the Eucharist explicitly was originally a Mithraic ceremony, and another example of those dastardly time-travelling demons at work.

                Last, it’s worth noting that the time and region is actually very well documented. Even if you were to strip out all the supernatural elements of Jesus’s biography, what you’re left with isn’t something that could have escaped mention. Philo of Alexandria, in particular, was a prolific philosopher and the original inventor of the “Logos” that opens the Gospel of John. He was related by marriage to the King Herod Agrippa whom the Gospels list as the reigning king at the time of Jesus’s ministry. His last written work was an account of his participation in a Jewish embassy to Rome to petition Caligula about the unjust mistreatment, including executions, of Jews at the hands of the Romans; this was in the early 40s, just a few years after Jesus was supposed to have done his schtick. Yet Philo doesn’t even breathe an hint of anything about anybody who could remotely be mistraken as Jesus. That omission is as telling as if Jesse Jackson never once mentioned Malcolm X, not even in passing; it’s simply unthinkable for it to have happened if Jesus had been an actual human being.



              4. Thanks, Ben, your scholarship on this topic always informs me, and I appreciate it all the more because chances are I’ll never get around to reading much if any of the material you mention myself.

                I personally am at 6.9-to-infinity on the 7.0 certainty scale that no single itinerate word merchant served as the model for the fictional character in the Bible named Jesus.

                As with a supernatural deity, though, I never state I am absolutely certain there is & never has been any such thing (even though I am), because that is an argument I lost the desire to engage in many years ago.

              5. This one, at least, you can put at the same level of confidence that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. We have overwhelming piles of evidence directly contradicting the reality of Jesus, and not a single piece supporting it. I include the New Testament itself as evidence against the reality of Jesus, in the exact same way that one would use Barrie’s novel, Peter Pan and Wendy, as evidence of the wholly fictional nature of the title characters.

                The only types of self-consistent scenarios in which Jesus could be real are the variations on the brain-in-a-vat / Matrix / mass hallucination theme. And, yeah, you can neither logically nor evidentially exclude such conspiracy theories…but giving them more than a perfunctory passing wave is practically the very definition of paranoid delusion. Besides, if the illusion is so powerful and complete that I can’t tell it from reality, how is it not therefore as real as reality itself?



              6. I still cannot get past the fact that this is just one hell of a hoax to have fooled so much of the world for so long. His divinity or lack of it doesn’t concern me. Man, God, both or neither is one thing. No historical characters are ever discussed with all the hard truths; I doubt that Jesus’s was any different. My position is there had to be a person, how ever changed in the later writings about him. I can’t see this being born out of whole cloth. At the time he preach, only 3 years, and the fact that there were a lot of ‘important’ people and events happening during his lifetime and that he was only important to a handful of people, give reason to think he was as real as any other poor Jew in a land of poor Jews and as no more worthy of historical noticed than those he lived with.

              7. What of all the other entities in the quote I’m going to paste below? Justin Martyr, the earliest Christian apologist, writing in the early part of the second century, clearly thinks they’re all just like Jesus. Are you certain they’re all based on real humans as well?

                Oh — and this is but a partial list from Martyr’s own First Apology. Lots more where this came from.



                And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; sculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars?

              8. I did not say there weren’t gazillions of gods, semi-divines (like Hercules, et al),or just very powerful magical beings worshiped or revered by many cultures. But none of them have anywhere close to the power and numbers of believers that Jesus does, nor did they make history outside of the cultures that reverenced them. I am not saying Jesus was a man, a god or some kind of hybrid, just that the degree and numbers of followers he has had to started somewhere. There just had to be a basis for his influence to have survived this long in such numbers.

              9. I think you’re missing a bit of perspective.

                Sure, in Western culture, especially America, Jesus is inescapable, and his biography is better known than that of any historical figure in the history of our country — and, more to the point, we know virtually nothing of any other gods.

                But, in the Islamic world, everybody knows Muhammad even better than we know Jesus, and they know about as much about Jesus as we do about Muhammad.

                In the Hindu world, everybody knows Krishna.

                In first century Rome, everybody knew Hercules.

                In first century Egypt, everybody knew Horus.

                In first century Persia, everybody knew Mithras.

                All of these gods have all been understood by their multitudinous worshippers as very real historical figures; to the worshippers, the possibility that they were mere myths was unthinkable.

                And, yet, every single one is entirely mythical.

                Including Jesus.

                Every one of your objections applies equally well to scores of other gods; the only thing unique about Jesus is that you’re immersed in a very Jesus-centric culture.

                In other words, it’s the outsider test of faith. If you understand why there didn’t have to be an historical Muhammad, Krishna, Hercules, Horus, Mithras, Quetzalcoatl, Thor, or any of the rest, despite the legions of loyal worshippers who insisted otherwise, then you should understand why there didn’t have to be an historical Jesus, either.

                I think it would really help you to read Justin Martyr’s First Apology. You’ll see, in the context of an early second century author living in the world of the Roman Pagans, just how alien Christianity was to the surrounding culture. You’ll also see Martyr give example after example of events from Jesus’s biography that you’re likely confident actually happened but were distorted into supernatural affairs later…except that it wasn’t (only) Jesus acting out those events in Martyr’s account, but various other popular gods of the time.



              10. Lisa, I’m taking another shot here. I just posted that I take back my 1:32 pm comment below that I was not addressing Jesus’ existence. I clearly did. I do not know where my retraction went. So I will rewrite it.

                My opinion is that the Jesus character in the Bible is an amalgam of both historical & contemporaneous Mediterranean myth figures combined with traits of existing (and deceased) Levant preachers, magicians, healers, political leaders, etc. I also would not be surprised if some Hindu/Buddhist philosophy is not also present thanks to Hellenistic influence and regional caravan journeying traders, as well, whether the author(s) of Jesus were aware of it or not.

                Unlike the Jesus character, who is first referenced in literature some 4 decades following the date he is supposed to have died, Piltdown Man, Hitler, and the WWII New Guinea tribesmen you reference are all soundly historically documented.

                Unfortunately, it is not unusual for significant historical events to be based upon fraudulent beliefs, or for large segments of population to fall victim to hoax.

              11. Hoax? No. Misinterpretation after the fact, yes, almost certainly. Even if one is not persuaded of the (say) Earl Doherty position, one might well think that a lot of the biographical details and such are in this category.

              12. “My position is there had to be a person, how ever changed in the later writings about him.”

                Why? Did there have also to be a Paul Bunyan? Falstaff? Adam&Eve? Xipe Totec?

              13. Paul Bunyan? Falstaff? Adam&Eve? Xipe Totec?
                None of these guys decided the history of mankind the way Jesus did. Two of them were claimed as folklore, not fact from the beginning. Everything that happens on this planet is or was in someway a reaction to the belief that Jesus existed in some way, not even The Beatles. I just can’t see any hoax lasting this long nor having so much effect on the world

              14. “Everything that happens on this planet is or was in someway a reaction to the belief that Jesus existed in some way”

                I’m sorry, lisa parker, but this is nonsense. The vast, vast, majority of things that have happened on this planet happened before the life of this purported person. And the vast majority of things that have happened since he purportedly lived have happened in places where humans (to say nothing of all of non-human beings) never heard of the fellow.

                Your argument for the reality of Mr. Christ comes down to pure, unadulterated credulity. You “just can’t see” how hoaxes can happen. That says nothing about hoaxes and a great deal about an absence of critical thought.

                If you want a lesson in how hoaxes occur, study up on some. Check into the creation of the LDS. Read up on Scientology. Learn about Lord Krishna, a character who has been on the stage and has affected more people than JC, by far.

                Heck, even those old love-birds Adam and Eve have had more impact than JC. They are more ancient characters whose role in the plot line makes JC possible.

                Credulity is not an argument.

              15. gbjames: I believe that you misunderstood my comments. I have no difficulty believing that many hoaxes have been and likely will be perpetuated on the credulous. In fact, I have a number of books detailing several of the more outrageous ones. I just don’t think Christianity could have been perpetuated so well or for so long without at least some kind of factual basis. It needn’t be a god/man saving us all from sin and showing us the way to heaven. He could have been just a very charismatic guy whose followers made him a legend and later unscrupulous men inflated the legend and their role in its unfolding in a bid for power and money. It worked out very well for them.
                As for the lack of evidence of a historical person, it should be no surprise. One man from a poor town in an area subjugated by the Roman Empire, whose public life lasted only 3 years and was executed by the standard method of the time, would not have been considered noteworthy by the chroniclers of the time
                I will grant you that before his time on the planet, Jesus had no affect on history. But after his legend (if that’s what it was) began to spread, it affected the whole planet in one way or another. The Christianization of Europe is inseparable from its history, culture and development. The determination of the new Church to convert the whole world affected the history and development of all of the rest of the planet. Even the places that did not convert had to contend with the pressure of the missionaries backed by the then very wealthy and powerful Church. After the ’Great Schism’ that resulted in the formation of all the protestant Christian churches everything got even more complex. As the western Europeans began their colonization and empire building, the religious beliefs of the ‘White Man’ determined how the indigenous people of the conquered lands were treated. The defense against the missionaries (and their armies) affected those places that were not conquered or ‘annexed.’ Religion is too deeply imbedded in human history to ever separate them.

              16. As for the lack of evidence of a historical person, it should be no surprise. One man from a poor town in an area subjugated by the Roman Empire, whose public life lasted only 3 years and was executed by the standard method of the time, would not have been considered noteworthy by the chroniclers of the time

                Except that’s not a fair characterization of the Gospel accounts. According to the Gospels, remember, Jesus was the zombie king of the undead who walked on water and fed thousands with table scraps.

                You might suggest that we should discount all the supernatural stuff in the Gospels. However, there’s nothing at all of Jesus in the Gospels that isn’t inextricably tied up in the supernatural. If you’re going to claim that 90% of the Gospel accounts are unrealistic and untrustworthy fabrications, you have no rational basis on which to claim the remaining 10% reliable.

                But, even if you want to go down that route, we’re still left with a Jesus whose birth was prophesied such that King Herod slaughtered all the male infants in the land; who entered Jerusalem in triumph to adoring masses; who gave monumental speeches to huge crowds; who wreaked havoc at the Temple; who was sentenced to death in the most scandalous mockery of a trial in all of recorded history, a trial personally presided over by the Roman proconsul and judged by the Jewish high court; and whose followers insisted they interacted with him after he was dead and buried. That right there makes him far and away the most remarkable public figure of the period.

                And yet, we have lots of contemporary accounts of the period by people who were there, and not a single one of them breathes an hint of any of these mind-blowing events, even when they’re describing people Jesus supposedly interacted with and events that he is said to have participated in.

                For example, Philo of Alexandria was related by marriage to the King Herod Agrippa whom the Gospels indicate was the king at the time of Jesus’s ministry. In the early 40s (definitely after but only shortly after the latest possible date for Jesus’s ministry), Philo wrote of his participation of a Jewish embassy to Rome to petition Emperor Caligula about the unjust executions of Jews at the hands of the Romans. Indeed, Acts describes a similar-but-unrelated diplomatic voyage, this one laden with all sorts of supernatural bullshit. Philo was the original inventor of the philosophy the Christians later adopted as their own; the Word of John 1:1 was Philo’s magnum opus. Yet throughout all of Philo’s writings, he never mentions anything of the events of the Gospels.

                Philo’s the best example, but far from the only one. We’ve got the Dead Sea Scrolls, the actual pieces of papyrus penned by messianic Jews living in and around Jerusalem before, during, and after the period in question; though they were expecting the Messiah to arrive at any time, Jesus is nowhere to be found in any scroll — not even as a mention of a false prophet. We’ve got Pliny the Elder’s extensive collection of stories of supernatural magic men, perfectly free of Jesus. We’ve got the Roman Satirists, whose stock in trade was exactly the sorts of humiliation Jesus visited upon Pilate and the Sanhedrin; no Jesus there, either.

                Then, when we finally start seeing mentions of Jesus in the non-Christian historical record, it’s all by people not even born until after the “fact,” and they are, without exception, reporting what these wacky upstart cultists are saying and can you believe the nonsense they’re spouting?

                And all this is before we start analyzing Jesus himself, and what the Christians claimed of him. Once we do, it’s instantly apparent that he’s exactly what he appears to be: a syncretic Pagan death / rebirth sun god of an upstart mystery cult cast in the mold of Osiris / Dionysus, just like Orpheus and Mithras and Bacchus and all the rest.



              17. I never said that the gospels were in any way shape or form records of any historical events. I did not say that 90% of the writings were superstitious twaddle or 10% was true. I did not say any of the exciting events you mentioned in your 3rd paragraph took place as described in the bible. As for Herod the Great (ha!), he was a big time paranoid schizophrenic who executed any and everybody he thought had the slightest capacity to depose him, including most of his family. (kinda like Stalin) If he thought there was any threat to him among the male children of Bethlehem, butchering all baby boys would have been in character, but I know of no record of his doing such. As far as Philo and friends and their complaints to Caesar, there must have been a lot more than crucifying one misunderstood guy; Pilate was removed from his post for excessive cruelty. By Caligula! (or those under him that dealt with such trivialities.) The unrest and fomenting rebellion in Judea and the surrounding area was enough to get the whole place leveled and peoples dispossessed by 79 CE. The authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls were a sect of Jews who rebelled against the mainstream theology and philosophy. All of the Jewish people were waiting for a very different type of messiah; a military hero to set them free and reestablish the kingdom as they believed it had been under Solomon; a new ‘David’ who would destroy the Roman ‘Goliath’. They were not interested in someone preaching humility, peace or brotherly love or promising a glorious kingdom AFTER death. With all that was happening at the time, why would anyone of note be interested in a wandering teacher out of Galilee? I am not sure exactly what sorts of humiliation you say that Jesus visited upon Pilate and the Sanhedrin; he disagreed with the Jewish priests on several points if anything in the gospels can be held as truth, but I don’t remember any humiliation mentioned. As for Pilate, they just barely crossed paths; there was very likely nothing that would have made Jesus any lasting impression on him.
                My entire commentary boils down to just this: No one has ever had the kind of influence on history and the development of human culture that Jesus of Galilee has had. I just think that there must have been some kernel of truth under all the pomp and glory.

              18. Now I must admit to not a small bit of confusion.

                The individual you’re describing not only bears no semblance to the Jesus of the Gospels; he not only bears no semblance to any individual ever documented at all (that I’m aware of); he couldn’t even possibly be remotely responsible for the founding of Christianity, as he’s the diametric opposite of the figure the early Christians describe. It’s almost as if you’re claiming that Christianity was founded by an Antichrist whose name was, “Jesus.”

                To paraphrase something I think I first heard from Dan Dennett, Santa is real! He’s a short, clean-shaven skinny Jewish retiree who lives in Florida year-round and hates children and has never seen a reindeer and whose name is, “Harold,” but he’s the real Santa!

                Or maybe I’m missing something from you. Perhaps you could clear things up?

                Who, in your opinion, was the real Jesus? How would you tell him apart from the countless other people with that name who lived in first century Judea (keeping in mind that the name was as popular then as it remains today, in the form of “Joshua” in the English-speaking world)?

                And, most importantly, how do you know that your version of Jesus is correct? What evidence supports your theory, and how does it account for (especially) the writings of early Christians, for whom Jesus was, quite literally, the “real” Perseus / Hermes / Bacchus / Aesculapius / Hercules / Bellerophon all rolled into one? Or for just slightly earlier Christian writings, wherein Jesus was the eternal spiritual co-creator (with YHWH) of Life, the Universe, and Everything?

                Or, for that matter, how do you account for the many early Christian sects who themselves rejected Jesus’s physical historicity, such as mentioned in 2 John 1:7?

                You seem very confident in your convictions that Jesus was a real figure from history, and I simply can’t see any way to even begin to reconcile such an hypothesis with the evidence I’m personally aware of. So what is it that convinced you?



              19. Still, lisa, your argument comes down to “I just can’t believe”. That doesn’t cut it, as far as I’m concerned. Ideas are powerful things and affect human history. Just because the idea has influence doesn’t mean it wasn’t just created out of whole cloth.

              20. @Richard Olson, Ben Goren, gbjames (I think that is all of you, if I missed someone, sorry)
                Gentlemen, I believe we have been arguing at cross purposes or in circle or whatever, and I believe I might owe you an apology. I have been responding to the e-mail alerts sent to me and only last night went to the actual notablog where all of all of our comments were included. I missed a couple of your replies and had seen only parts of the rest (occasionally my computer eats all or parts of my e-mails for no reason anyone has been able to divine) I also think I might have been in a somewhat belligerent mood judging from the tone of my comments. All of my children, along with spouses and children have moved back home (to my home anyway) and I confess to being a trifle testy at times.
                I have only been trying in my comments to say that the person known as Jesus of Galilee, or Jesus Christ, whatever, has been the single most influential person to ever walk this earth. I find it incredible that such a deciding factor in human history might never have really existed. I think that my reasons for believing that there could have been such an actual flesh and blood guy, what ever name one gives him, who could have existed but not be in the historical record, especially considering how much that particular piece of ground has been stomped on since we evolved all the way to Homo sapiens. You have all made valid points on the probability of that happening. But people are weird and will ignore the most obvious facts and turn around and dig their heels in and swear that something much less obvious is ‘God’s own truth.’ I am really sorry I missed some of you comments before; you made several interesting points. And still, at the end of the day, none of it will have much effect on me tomorrow. Sorry if I was a trifle snippy.

          1. Quite so. In the event of any of us kids raising any ‘difficult’ questions, the giant penguins – sorry – nuns who taught at my first school, would order us to stop thinking with our heads and start listening to our hearts.

            If that didn’t work, it was the ruler/slipper/cane.

  2. I can’t tell if that is attempted satire, attempted poe or a serious argument from Alvin Plantinga. Many of the arguments devised by Sophisticated Theologians™ really are that . . . nutty? Fruity?

    The only difference I can see is that the STs™ would have used 63 times (630times?) more words, and probably would have invented a few new words or at least invented some new definitions for existing words.

          1. Oh sure, the guy who has Jan Brewer as his governor says that California is where all the nuts are! (Ex-Arizonan here.) 😉

    1. The orgy of praise being heaped on the pope on a rope Francis the whatever number.particularly in the left of centre press…

    2. Love that headline. The media’s explosion of love for someone who has not really changed anything is hilarious.

  3. This post misrepresents religious scholars who work in the sciences. Is this the best you can do in critical assessment of science and religion? If so, you pose no threat to either discipline.

    1. No, the post does not misrepresent “religious scholars who work in the sciences.” They are no savvier than fundamentalist Christians, but just good at using specious arguments to support what they already believe to be true (Plantinga is a great example of that).

      And speaking of sophisticated theology, Ms. Linsley, I greatly enjoyed your own version at your website, “The Ark rested in Bethlehem“. A SPLENDID example of critical scientific analysis of religious claims!

    2. Oh, come on. Religious scholars who work in the sciences and take no stance on whether or not the religion they’re working with is actually true from the supernatural or spiritual standpoint may very well rest all their conclusions on proper evidence and reasoning. That’s Religious Studies — not Theology seeking understanding of God.

      “This is what the Book of Urantia says; this is what it originally said; this is why the writer said it; here is what he meant; this is what he was writing about; here is where he lived.”. The fact that there are no space aliens from Urantia — and the entire silly book is a product of human effort alone — is irrelevant. So what? Is that what you mean by “religious scholars who work in the sciences?”

      Jerry is specifically dealing in this post with the topic of God and whether or not it exists.

    3. Please give us some examples of what you consider to be high quality critical assessment of theological arguments, claims or hypotheses intended to justify religious belief, and that assesses them as credible, by a religious scholar who works in the sciences.

  4. It has always seemed to me that religious believers mentally enter into an internal story-world when they consider the Big Picture of reality. It’s a world in which they are the main character in a third person narrative.

    In other words, they’re losing touch with the distinction between reality and a work of fiction. In the Bible, when Abraham is told by God to kill his son there is never any question in his mind that he has been told to do this by God. That’s not even an issue. But why doesn’t the modern believer — someone who reads the Bible as a guide to life — find Abraham’s confidence in himself puzzling? How does he know it’s really the voice of God and not just himself talking to himself?

    The answer is childishly simple: Abraham knows it’s God and is right to know it’s God because it IS God. We the readers know that God really did speak to Abraham because it’s in the book that this is what happened. The story tells us. So Abraham wasn’t trusting in himself at all: he was trusting in God. End of story.

    If you frame your own life like a story — and buy into a pre-existing plot — it seems that you can forget that there really isn’t a third-person omniscient narrator who has set out the background information all neat and clear. You can confuse your inner voice with an outline of information objectively structured into reality by a reliable writer … from nowhere.

    God exists, okay? And the purpose of existence is to learn this, okay? Fixed. Now, I’m the main character of my life, and will try to work in this structure and find my happy ending. Here’s the part where I discover God, and come to the right conclusion. I call this section “apologetics.” And like Abraham, I’m right to not doubt my feeling that God exists because it’s true that God exists. My conclusion was the premise laid out into the story I chose. God is the omniscient creator: I now get to borrow that.

    I think we all knit the patterns of our experiences into a story of our lives, constructing a sense of who we were, who we are, and where we are going. But to many people it’s tempting to enlarge the personal plot into a deeply-connected cosmic plot. There’s a Big Picture dealing with what is true, what is important, and why things are the way they are — and we are the touchstone of meaning.

    That’s the religious or spiritual way of approaching reality. There’s an almost irresistible underlying sense that Everything happens for a reason — a plot-like reason. It’s to move the story along as if fiction has blended with reality. As Alan Cromer puts it, the inner world of thought and feeling has merged with the outer world of object and event.

    And the sensus divinitatis is the third person omniscient rumbling as background in their heads.

  5. Faith is defined as belief in someone or something WITHOUT ANY PROOF. IF ANY OF THESE ‘FAITHFUL’ ARE LOOKING FOR PROOF, THEN THEY ARE NOT ‘THE FAITHFUL!!’ Why can’t they get that?

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